Some of Israel's most religious have been nice to me.
I've especially enjoyed debating with young yeshiva students, boys in black hats with varying success at growing beards. They love knowledge. They're still open-minded enough to say, "Ahh ... good point," to a person who isn't preaching the Torah. They're still humble, not yet lording over others and judging. And, unlike the guys in kippa hats, a lot of whom seem to worship themselves, they're humble enough to give themselves up completely to their faith.
I don't have much in common with them. But, one thing we do share is the belief that it's bad to masturbate.
"Achieve freedom from your body." - J.Breen philosophy
I gave up masturbation in February 2006, achieving a success so overwhelming it makes me want to celebrate in the street.
A Michigander friend said of this achievement, "Dude, you only have to do that if you want to, like, levitate." "I do want to levitate," I told him.
But, perhaps most importantly, I did it because I don't want to go bald.
I believe vices cause us to age prematurely, and I think hair loss is a sign of aging. Many people, my mother included, would say baldness would be an improvement from my current, shaggy hair-do. But I hope, through healthy living, to avoid the "Curse of the Breen-Family Men."
In 2007, I told two Siberian girls about my ingenious plan. One of them, a doctor, laughed and told me hair loss certainly has nothing to do with how much one masturbates. And she assured me that I will, in fact, go bald. I covered my ears and said I didn't want to hear it. Meanwhile, the other girl, who spoke English rarely and with a baby-bird-like accent, began taunting me with chants of, "Bald bald bald. Bald bald bald!"
Hmph. Of course, I think there's more to maintaining youth than the cessation of vices.
And there are many reasons to give up masturbating.
This year, during the last of my days in Tzfat, while I waited for my landscaping job to pay me, a religious man handed me a pamphlet. A pamphlet full of masturbation-related informational material. Oh, joy.
The Jewish pamphlet told why it's important to be "Shomer Habris" (literally: He Guards his Penis). The main step in doing so is the cessation of masturbation. Here are some quotes; I'll begin with the information that, to me, seems believable, perhaps even wise:
"A percentage of the seminal fluid originates from the brain. ... When a person spills seed he is wasting away part of his brain. This lowers all functions of hte brain, especially memory. ... This also causes a person's emotions to be thrown out of balance. A person who is Pogem (not "Shomer") often has a difficult time controlling his temper. He becomes subjected to sadness, depression and a loss of self confidence."
"Whoever breaks this desire ...
"... will easily be able to break the rest of his bad traits." "... will not fall into the desire of money." "... is protected from his enemies and harm will not befall him." "... will attain a level where he is constantly in a state of happiness." "Light radiates from (him)."
"Freedom is dependent on Shmiras Habris."
"Seed is the energy of the body and the light of the eyes. As long as it is excreted in excess the body withers and life is lost. A person that is saturated in this, old age jumps on him, his strength leaves him, his eyes go weak and bad breath pours out of his mouth. His hair and eyebrows fall out, the hair of his legs and armpits become thick and his teeth fall out. Many additional health problems occur."
Whoa, whoa, whoa! Part of that last quote doesn't belong in the "believable" section. When I eat mint leaves and lozengers, I have good breath; when I eat onions and garlic, I have bad breath. I guess it'll always be like that, unfortunately; I love onions and garlic.
I can also say that I haven't achieved a state of constant happiness. But, my emotions are in check. And I do feel self confident - which is obvious, because otherwise I wouldn't write about such strange topics.
Okay. Let's continue. Next come the mystical quotes, the Jewish quotes that made me say, "Hmmm. Maybe that could be true."
"Protection while traveling is dependent on Shmiras Habris." ... "It is only possible to attain the attribute of humbleness if one is Shmiras Habris." ... "Hashem (literally: "The name", it's how Jews refer to God), himself, heals that person both physically and spiritually." ... "(he) has the form of Hashem upon him. Humans and animals are afraid of him."
"The exile of Egypt came because of Pgam Habris. As a result of Pgam Habris, sword (war) comes to the land." ... "One who flaws his Bris flaws Daas (knowledge)."
All right. This brings us to the third face of Jewish belief. Here are fantastical quotes, quotes that made me - familiar with religious superstition and the Jewish ego - laugh.
"(Wasted drops of seed) have a heart and some form of body. ... Therefore when a person dies hey go after his coffin crying for him, just as his own children do. However when they follow him crying it is a great embarrassment for him." ... "This also causes poverty."
"Every person who is Shomer Habris ...
"... he or his descendants will receive power." "... After he passes away, worms do not eat him." "... When Hashem sends energy down to the world it first passes through (them)."
Wow. Those were a lot of quotes!
My pamphlet also says to never "speak to a woman for social reasons," nor "use the internet". The pamphlet I'm quoting is associated with the late Rabbi Nachman, who gave the command to publish his writings in mass quantities after his death. Many of the quotes come not from him but from holy Jewish texts. For a free pamphlet call the publisher, Alofi Azot Dikadusha, 718-301-5940, or visit www.BrisKodesh.org. Above the name of their website is written:
"(You Should Not Be Using The Internet)"
I talk to women; I use the internet; hell, I even look at my Bris on occasion! But, I do believe there's something in sex and masturbation we don't understand. I'm glad I don't masturbate - even if the pesky Israeli flies aren't afraid of me. I think I'm reaping some benefits.
Here's one last quote:
"... without self-purification the observance of the law of Ahimsa* must remain an empty dream; God** can never be realized by one who is not pure of heart. ... purification being highly infectious, purification of oneself necessarily leads to the purification of one's surroundings." - Gandhi
* - ahimsa = the unity of all life
** - God = (according to Gandhi) Truth
Good luck keeping your hair! Modern Oddyseus.